Shortly after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, the publishing house was born: Publishers owned the presses, bought the rights to what they published, and established a network for marketing and distribution. Five hundred years later, digital technologies now allow authors to publish their own books, retaining the rights and sometimes earning money from the enterprise. In this rapidly changing industry, there’s a lot for an author to learn, and Sonja Hakala’s Your Book, Your Way: How to Choose the Best Publishing Option for Your Book, Your Wallet and Yourself is a great place to start.
Hakala has many years’ experience in all aspects of the business, from author to book designer to publicist to publisher. She knows the industry, and she has written a guide outlining the many different methods writers now have to get their work to their audience. Audience is key: the author of a family history written for thirty to a hundred relatives has different publication needs from the author of a educational workbook, who has different needs from the author of a fast-paced thriller.
Your Book, Your Way lists and defines all the methods available to those who want to publish privately (books usually given as gifts to a small, specific, audience) or openly (books meant for sale in the marketplace), and then breaks down all the steps required to create a finished book, regardless of format. As Hakala points out: even eBooks need editing, formatting and design. She gives an overview of design elements a publisher must keep in mind for reading ease.
The heart of Your Book, Your Way, however, lies in the two chapters in the center of the book, one on marketing and the other on publishing math. In this digital age, it’s easy to publish; it’s much harder to sell books – no matter how they’re made available. Chapter Nine on marketing is full of advice for anyone who intends to sell their books, no matter how they’re published – including by a traditional, big house. It is these big houses that have set some of the – now archaic – standards in publishing, like the Standard Trade Discount, and other oddities of an industry whose established model is imploding.
In Chapter Ten, Hakala explains Publishing Math – including how independent publishing is likely to be more profitable for more writers than publishing with an old school publisher. Any writer intending to turn a profit would do well to learn the arithmetic Hakala explains with great clarity.
Your Book, Your Way is an essential text for anyone considering publishing their own or others’ books in today’s publishing arena. It includes a glossary of publishing terms, ample examples of parts of a book, cogent warnings against rushing unedited books into print, and a useful index. My one complaint is the sometimes hokey authorial voice, but even this is well-meant, and the clear presentation of complex information more than made up for this one stylistic tic.
Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of Into the Wilderness, winner of the 2011 Independent Publishers’ Gold Medal for Regional Fiction. Learn more at her website: www.deborahleeluskin.com